Communicating well with your team may have been a little trickier this year.
Firstly, there’s the physical challenge of gathering everyone together in one place when members of the team may well be furloughed, on different shifts, working from home or part time, etc.
You might also have felt like you’ve been so busy working at full pelt to adapt quickly to changes and clear the backlog of patients, that you’ve had no option but to put team communications on the backburner.
All of which is totally understandable. The issue is that, often, people can become frustrated when they feel like they’re not in the know about decisions or changes being made in the practice.
Communication works two-ways – not only do people generally want to be talked to and told what is happening, they also want to be listened to and asked for their opinion or thoughts. And when that happens, they are much less likely to feel frustrated.
Andrew Jowett, Clinical Director of Quay Dental, has recently begun producing an online team e-newsletter to enhance and increase communication among his practice’s team. I spoke to Andrew to find out more…
Zoe: Where did the idea of an e-newsletter for the team come from?
Andrew: The idea came from Chris Barrow’s Extreme Business program, which I’m a member of. Being a member of the program means I receive a weekly tracker from him which allows me to give feedback and reflect on how things are going in the practice.
We thought that would be a good idea to implement in our own practice as it would give us an opportunity to tell the team what is happening that week, what we’re working on at the management level and ask for their thoughts and input.
We’re so busy at the moment, plus we have a few part-time clinicians and we’re finding it difficult to schedule meetings that everyone can attend, so the newsletter is an alternative way of sharing information.
The newsletter gives us chance to share changes being made in the practice, training opportunities, etc., and we also have our own version of the tracker which is basically a mini survey of three questions that allows team members to feedback on what’s gone well, what’s been the biggest challenge and how we can help them.
It wasn’t something we thought about doing before COVID-19, but I’m becoming more conscious of how communication is a key part of being a successful practice.
Zoe: I imagine many dentists might think this sounds like a great idea, but that they simply don’t have time. How do you manage to fit this in?
Andrew: I spend my Fridays working on tasks to develop the business, rather than working clinically in the practice, so I create and send out the newsletter during that time.
It does obviously take some time, but it’s not overly onerous. I use Mailchimp to create the newsletter and it is just a short summary of what’s been going on that week in the practice, and then the survey which is always the same questions.
I appreciate it can feel difficult to find the time for tasks like this, but I do think it is worthwhile.
Our team members are feeling that decisions aren’t just made by ‘the top’; they’re part of it and they have the opportunity to input.
Doing this via a newsletter also enables those people who might not feel comfortable speaking up in a meeting or being put on the spot to come up with ideas, to still share their thoughts.
They can also easily discuss any issues they have with systems or processes that might be causing delays and we’ve had some good suggestions for improvements in the practice.
If anything is raised during the weekly tracker from our newsletter, the practice manager will follow those up and discuss them during one-to-one meetings with team members.
Zoe: What else do you do in terms of team communication?
Andrew: We have a 15-minute morning huddle every day to follow up on anything that might have happened the day before, anything we need to be aware of for the day ahead, the figures and capacity we have for emergencies and new patients.
We’ll also discuss any opportunities for talking to patients about referrals to their family and friends and any offers or services we’re particularly marketing.
Zoe: Thank you Andrew for sharing what you’ve been doing to enhance team communication.
Over recent months, you and your team may well have found yourselves needing to make changes to the way you work and often with little notice. It’s easy to see how this can lead to frustration.
Keeping the lines of communication across the practice open and improving the opportunities for everyone to speak, be heard and feel involved in the direction of the business, can go a long way to building team morale and ensuring job satisfaction.